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Hardened Arteries Threaten Obese, Diabetic Youth
Date:5/26/2009

Ultrasound shows damage tied to rising odds for stroke, heart attack, researchers say

TUESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- An examination of the neck arteries of today's obese or diabetic young people bodes ill for their future health, researchers report.

The walls of these carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain, showed a thickening and stiffness known to increase the risk of future strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, according to a report to be published in the June 9 issue of Circulation.

"Since the 1980s, there has been a major increase in obesity in our youth," said Dr. Elaine Urbina, director of preventive cardiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati and lead author of the report. "This could be the first generation of Americans that has a shorter life expectancy than its parents," she said.

In the study, Urbina and her team used ultrasound to assess the carotid arteries of a few hundred young people (average age 18) -- 182 who were lean, 128 diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (often tied to obesity), and 136 classified as obese because their weight-for-height was above the 95th percentile. "It was one of the larger studies of carotid thickness in adolescents," Urbina said.

The researchers looked at the thickness of the intima, one of the layers of tissue that line the arteries.

"If you have diabetes, the intima is thicker than if you don't have diabetes," Urbina said. "If you are obese, the artery is also thicker. Stiff carotids are linked to heart attacks as well as strokes, because if you are having a buildup of plaque in the arteries that lead to the brain, you probably are having a buildup in the coronary arteries as well."

Plaque is the term for the fatty deposits that can increase in size and thickness until they limit or totally block normal blood flow.


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